London: Scientists claim to have discovered the first intact skeleton of a dinosaur that is an ancestor to the sauropod, the largest creature ever to walk the planet.
The 30 feet-long skeleton, complete with skull, estimated to be 200 million years old, may help reveal the story of how the 120 feet-long giant-necked sauropods evolved and became solely plant eaters.
The bones were found in southern China, Texas Tech paleontologist Sankar Chatterjee in the US said.
The skeleton Chatterjee is studying shows the animal stood on four feet. It also has the beginnings of a long neck, reports the Daily Mail.
These preliminary findings will be presented at the Geological Society of America meeting in Denver, Colorado, Sunday.
The broad, high, domed skull has eye sockets on the sides and a short snout with a wide, U-shaped jaw. Serrated, spoon-shaped teeth suggest it ate plants, like sauropods.
The sturdy teeth and raised neck let the animal very easily nip small branches from treetops and then chew the plant material.
"It`s like a manuscript. Many pages are missing. We are still trying to piece it together," Chatterjee said. "This is one of those missing links. Now we`ll know better how these dinosaurs evolved."
The skeleton, estimated at more than 200 million years old, was found by one of Chatterjee`s colleagues in 2005 in flood plains around Lufeng in Yunnan province, which has been rich with dinosaur finds, he said.